- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Two of the four Atlantic City casinos that shut down in 2014 are about to reopen, and they are going about it in very different ways.

Revel and the Showboat, next-door neighbors at the north end of the Boardwalk, recently announced they are reopening. Revel will have a hotel and a casino, albeit smaller than it had previously, while Showboat is reopening as a non-gambling hotel. By mid-July, both should be up and running, although Revel’s casino will not be open until the end of August at the earliest.

Here’s a look at the two projects and their paths to a comeback:

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BACKGROUND

The Showboat closed on Aug. 31, 2014. Owner Caesars Entertainment shut down the still-profitable Mardi Gras-themed casino in the name of lessening competition for the three other casinos it owns in Atlantic City: Harrah’s, Caesars and Bally’s. After a disastrous sale to Stockton University, and a failed effort to flip it to another casino owner, the Showboat was sold in January to Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein, who last year bought and re-branded the former Pier Shops complex into The Playground. He plans to run the Showboat as a non-gambling resort hotel, with numerous attractions he has not yet announced.

Revel closed on Sept. 2, 2014, little more than two years after it opened at a cost of $2.4 billion, making it Atlantic City’s most spectacular casino flop. Florida developer Glenn Straub bought it last year from bankruptcy court for $82 million, or about 5 cents on the dollar, and had to endure a seemingly endless stream of regulatory and legal setbacks before finally preparing to open the property.

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THE BRAND

Blatstein will keep the Showboat name for his hotel, reckoning it as a well-known, well-regarded brand. Straub is renaming Revel (“That name never meant anything anyway,” he said.) But he won’t yet reveal what the new name is. One hint: “We have some Asian painters coming up with the artwork,” he said.

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THE PREPARATION

This is the biggest difference so far between the projects. Blatstein is doing all the traditional things to announce and prepare for the reopening of his property. He has hired a publicist, issued news releases and held a job fair at which 3,000 people sought one of the 200 or so jobs that were available.

Straub, on the other hand, is outsourcing most of the key functions of what was once Revel. He says a company he will not yet identify (because it is awaiting final regulatory approvals) will operate the casino and be responsible for the 900 hotel rooms that will open next week, as well as the employees that will staff them. He says walk-ins are welcome to check in, but expects the hotel will be populated by guests of the casino company. There is not yet a phone number, reservation desk or even a website for the new resort, and potential guests don’t even know which name to search for.

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THE TIMING

Straub plans to have Revel (or whatever its new name will be) open next Wednesday, when the 900 hotel rooms will be available. Also on the day, he says, a rope-climbing course, a 13-story bicycle endurance track in part of the parking garage, 13 cabanas, a zip line, a span and other attractions should be open. Additional attractions will open by July 1 and Aug. 15, with the casino reopening by the end of August, assuming the necessary approvals are obtained.

Blatstein hopes to have the Showboat open by July 4 weekend, but says the 12th or 13th might be a more realistic date.

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THE OUTLOOK

Each project has some of what Atlantic City badly needs. The resort for years has tried, with mixed success, to diversify itself and offer more family friendly, non-gambling attractions. Straub has no end of ideas in that regard, ranging from horse rides on the beach to indoor-outdoor pools and music festivals, a beauty treatment spa and competitive videogaming contests. More importantly, he views the casino as but a small portion of the attraction at his property, and it is not likely to greatly add to what was an oversaturated market before the 2014 crash that claimed both it and the Showboat, along with the Atlantic Club and Trump Plaza.

The Showboat and Revel (or whatever), will add badly needed hotel rooms to Atlantic City during the peak summer season, and on weekends, when they are at a premium, with 900 initially at Revel, and 852 at the Showboat. And although he is keeping them close to the vest, Blatstein has proved skilled at thinking of and delivering non-gambling attractions at his other properties.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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